Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Out-of-Office Etiquette for the Over-Worked

Melissa Korn’s recent article, “I’m Out of the Office. No, Really. I Am.” in the Wall Street Journal Careers section contains some excellent advice for the over-worked and under-vacationed workforce we have all become. In her article, she recalls a vacation she took after turning on her Out-of-Office Auto-Reply email (complete with an alternative contact person and a return date), only to receive multiple follow-up, non-essential, and even badgering emails. Ultimately, Korn caved and responded to email, despite her intention of an email-free vacation. To help others avoid her fate, Korn gives four tips for vacationers:

Turn your device off! Korn was lured in by the message light on her Blackberry. Had it been off, she would have never known she had emails waiting.
Declare email bankruptcy. Korn explains that Lauren Young, wealth editor at Thomson Reuters, sets her automatic reply to convey that she may just delete everything received during her absence in order to avoid being overwhelmed. If it’s really important, she expects that people will send it when she is back in the office. Those who ignore her instructions are likely to have their email deleted without being read.
Ask colleagues to be brief. Your vacation time is your time to rest and recharge, hopefully making you a better employee when you return. And Korn explains that colleagues should respect your recharging time just as they would expect you to do with theirs. She suggests that you encourage the use of hints in the subject line for those that still feel the need to email:
  • “NNTR” means there’s "no need to respond."
  • “EOM” means "end of message." You don’t even need to open the email, because everything was said in the subject line. (for example: “I have your stapler. EOM”)
Get over yourself. This may be the most important one. Korn quotes Leslie Perlow, a Harvard Business School professor and author of Sleeping With Your Smartphone, as saying email exile can be an exercise in humility, as employees learn that the world keeps spinning when they're not connected.

To read more about Korn’s “email-free” vacation experience and advice, click here.

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